Phoenix Mulch Plant Ordered Shut Down Following Pollution Complaints

Phoenix city officials ordered an open-air mulching facility to shut down this week after a months-long battle with nearby residents and business owners, who complained the odor and particulates emanating from the facility were making them sick. 

In a letter to Green Earth Recycling, which set up on the corner of 23rd Avenue and Williams Drive about 18 months ago, Planning Director Alan Stephenson gave owners 60 days to clear out its 10-foot-high piles of mulch and cease operations.

Although a report from an independent consulting firm did not find any dust emissions, Stephenson noted, at the time of inspection, the mulch was "observed to be wet." On two different visits, city staff observed "a strong odor of decomposing plant material" that created an "adverse impact on the properties or persons within the vicinity."

The company, which recycles organic materials, such as tree branches and pine chips, applied for a special-use permit earlier this year after it was cited for violating zoning regulations. The city denied the permit in June, but Green Earth appealed.

Saundra Bryn, manager of Desert Edge RV Park, located downwind of the mulching plant, said she was "truly relieved" by the city's decision.

More than 100 residents and regular visitors to the park complained the plant was filling the air with particulates that made it difficult to breathe, heightened allergies, and made them feel nauseated. One woman was convinced the poor air quality contributed to a bout of pneumonia that had her bed ridden for six weeks.

The owners of several neighboring businesses, including a cement factory, also complained that their employees started calling in sick more frequently after Green Earth launched operations. 

"We are all looking forward to the time when the particles aren't blowing and the odor isn't awful," Bryn said. "We are looking forward to not having the flies and critters that breed in the mulch scurrying through the park."

Green Earth Recycling declined to comment. 
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Elizabeth Stuart
Contact: Elizabeth Stuart